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Mental health is as important as physical health

Phil explains how his team helps people with a lung condition who have anxiety and depression.

Mental health is as important as physical health

I’m part of a team in Sheffield helping people with a long-term lung condition who also have anxiety, panic and depression. We see anyone with a lung condition, from people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD to those living with pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease. We see people in their own homes across the whole city.

People who have anxiety, panic, or low mood often have problems with breathlessness. They often have difficult thoughts or feelings about their condition and symptoms. They can also feel lonely or isolated.

 It can be much more of a challenge to get out of the house and meet friends to socialise

Usually if you feel isolated, you can do things to help improve your mood. But if you have a lung condition those things might not work anymore. It can be much more of a challenge to get out of the house and meet friends to socialise, or keep active.

Every person is an individual for us. We help them find out more about their condition – about how to control their feelings when they're breathless, for example. From there, we’ll try to understand each person so we can develop a plan that’s tailored to their individual needs.

We work to improve things slowly and subtly, so the person has long-term benefits. One of our key aims is to help prevent people having to be admitted to hospital with a flare-up. Flare-ups can be made worse by issues involving low mood and panic.  

It’s a good idea to go along to a pulmonary rehabilitation programme, to make sure people keep as active as they can. We work alongside our rehab team who are invaluable.

Going along to a Breathe Easy group can help you feel you’re not alone or isolated

We also recommend going along to a Breathe Easy support group. At a Breathe Easy group, you can speak to other people like you. Though our team can help, we don’t know exactly what it’s like to have a lung condition. Going along to a Breathe Easy group can help you feel you’re not alone or isolated.

Ultimately, anxiety and depression are normal experiences. It’s a normal thing to feel, particularly when faced with a long term lung condition. Breathe Easy can help people recognise that.

That’s also why my team and I are working with the British Lung Foundation to develop new information about anxiety and depression for people living with a lung condition. We know that if people can look after themselves emotionally, they’re more likely to look after themselves physically.

Mental health is something people still hesitate to talk about. But it’s just as important as physical health. Knowing there’s clear information out there - so people understand it’s normal to feel the way they do - can only be a good thing. It’ll be an important first step.

Look out for our new information about anxiety and depression in the next few months.

You can find your nearest Breathe Easy group on our website.

Find your nearest group

Phil Mudge and team

Phil Mudge

Phil is a specialist respiratory cognitive behavioural psychotherapist in Sheffield. He's on the left in the photo, along with his team members Andy and Elise.

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10 October 2017